The price of fame can be high. For Jim Sonefeld, the fame came from being an integral part of mega-band Hootie and the Blowfish, contributing songs and drumming for over a decade. The heavy fee he paid was an addiction to alcohol and an emotional dependence on fame that made his life unmanageable. In 2004, he finally found a way to combat his personal issues by regaining a Christian faith he had abandoned as a young man and the EP “In” is a demonstration of Sonefeld’s desire to share his spiritual experiences with others and keep busy musically as Hootie has been on hiatus recently.
The style of the record is unmistakably Christian contemporary rock, but there is probably more of an emphasis on “rock” here than one might expect from a solo Blowfish drummer making an inspirational recording. It’s close in feel to the rock/pop of his famous band, but on several tracks, electric guitars generate a little more firepower than that group is known for. Nothing too tame that would drive away most adult listeners who made it through a decade of ‘90s alt-rock with their hearing intact, but still palatable to people to whom Hootie and the Blowfish may have been “alternative” back then. It has a distinct ‘90s feel (think Matchbox 20 or mid-era U2) tempered with a bit of ‘80s nostalgia (maybe Bryan Adams?). Of interest is Sonefeld’s decision to forgo the drums and concentrate on singing and playing keys here. All songs here are written by him and while his ability to write a hit song is not in question (ever heard “Hold My Hand”?), his singing may take people by surprise. At turns reminding me of a more forceful James Taylor, he is definitely not phoning it in. There may even be some competition with Darius Rucker in the country sweepstakes, as “My Walk Has Begun” is a slowly gliding number with a solid country feel, but for the most part Sonefeld keeps his allegiance to rock; several guitar solos arranged in his songs show his intention to make a rock record evident.
His belief in his own tales of redemption through faith rings true throughout “In”, creating a compelling testimony to his cost-of-fame narrative. Fans of his “other” band that have been waiting for new Hootie material should see what keeps Jim Sonefeld grounded nowadays.
Recommended if you like: Contemporary Christian music, Hootie and the Blowfish, Matchbox 20
Sean Knight is a native South Carolinian who has spent his life bouncing back and forth between SC and Texas, playing in bands you probably never heard of in both states and stinking up open-mic nights in the Low Country for many years. He plays, collects, listens to and probably spends too much of his life obsessing over music.